A Story for My Father
Eileen W. Fisher
Copyright 2019 by Eileen W. Fisher
father always wanted to be a writer, but that was not practical. By
the time I was in fourth grade, I decided that I was going to fulfill
mother called him Natie, he called himself Nat; his nickname was
Nissel. I called him Daddy.
father, Nathaniel came over from Russia in 1913 with his parents,
Yitzchak and Sarah, and his three siblings. He was ten years old. His
older brother, Charles, was fourteen, their sister Basia, eleven, and
the youngest, Max, was eight. They owned a glass and mirror shop in
Harlem. Only Charles had the opportunity to go to college; he became
a pharmacist. My father was expected to go to work after high school,
and help support the family. He became a carpenter. In an early
professional photograph, my Dad poses proudly in a pair of carpenter
overalls, holding a yardstick in one hand.
he never forgot his dream of becoming a writer.
father signed up for evening classes in English composition at City
College, but with regret in his voice, he would tell me, “I was
too tired after a day’s work to do the homework. The professors
were honest with me. They told me that unless I did the homework, I
wouldn’t get much out of the classes.” Invariably, he
would drop out —it was a story that I heard often.
my Dad’s love of language and writing is his legacy to me.
Writing always remained an important part of my father’s life.
most prized possession was the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary
which he kept behind glass on the first shelf of the dark mahogany
secretary. My father was a soft-spoken man, and it was through words
in the love poems that he wrote to my mother for her birthday that he
could express what he couldn’t say in every day conversation.
And he wrote long, flowery invocations for the monthly Cousins’
Club which he proudly read at the beginning of each meeting.
his penmanship was a minor work of art. My dad wrote with a flourish
– small, carefully rounded letters, with each capital letter
embellished with fancy curlicues. He favored well sharpened
Eberhard-Faber No. 2 pencils. When I was unable to master cursive
writing, my Dad sat patiently with me at the kitchen table while I
wrote page after page of circles and slanted lines until I was able
to write legibly.
regret that my Dad never wrote down the bedtime
made up for me — stories about Bobby, the policeman, who was
always finding lost children, or rescuing them from some impending
danger! In fourth grade, I made up stories for our class newsletter
about Inky, the pup. It was when I saw my name in print that I
decided that I would become a newspaper reporter and fulfill my
father’s dream. I read and reread the only book in the library
on the topic, “So You Want to Be a Reporter.”
life got in the way. Having lived through the depression, my parents
were concerned that I should be able to earn a steady paycheck. And,
by pursuing a career in journalism, it was far from clear that this
would be the case. My parents urged me to become a teacher like
several of my cousins. My father tried to reassure me that I would
still have time to write – I could teach during the year and
write during the summers. Having always been interested in working
with intellectually disabled children, I pursued a career in special
education. I loved my work, and though I thought about missed
opportunities, I felt that I had made the right choice.
by chance however, when I was in my mid-fifties my desire to write
was once again triggered by a request from a colleague to edit her
poetry. I began to write stories; some autographical, some not. As
did my father, I found through the written word a vehicle for
expressing my thoughts and emotions. Now, it is my
who urge me to write down the stories about my family and childhood.
These memoirs will be part of my legacy to them.
the dark mahogany secretary stands in my living room and the
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary sits on a shelf in my bookcase.
And although it is fragile, I still turn to dictionary when looking
for just the right word!
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
story list and biography
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